Archive for May, 2008

MOVIE: Cloverfield (2007)

May 29, 2008

For some bizarre reason I can’t understand AT ALL now that I’ve actually seen it, I had this movie out from Netflix for a record FIVE WEEKS before I finally sat down to watch it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a disk longer than five DAYS before, to be honest, but even though I suspected this movie might be a lot of fun, for some hindsightedly-ridiculous reason, I had trouble getting myself to sit down and watch it.

In retrospect, I can now announce the following:  I am an idiot.  Because I LOVED THIS CRAZY MOVIE!  Oh my god!! I loved it sooooo much! I totally want to marry it! I want to have its little Godzilla-Meets-Jurassic-Park-Meets-Blair-Witch-Project babies!  When the end credits rolled, and the first thing those credits stated was, “Directed by Matt Reeves,” the first thing *I* stated was, “MATT REEVES RULZ!!”

And I meant it too.

4-EVA.

Why I’m suddenly talking like I’m 13 years old, I have no idea.  Except that yes, yes I do know. It’s because I’m giddy with the joy that comes from watching a really entertaining and effective scary movie, and giddiness always makes me feel young.  Which is not to say I found this movie SCARY, mind you, because I absolutely did not.  In order to scare me for real, you have to show me something I believe might actually happen (movies about dangerously inept government officials usually do the trick, for example) — but giant, building-stomping critters in New York City honestly do not worry me all that much.  For reasons I hope are obvious.

That said, what was effective for me (and I realize not all critics felt this way, but those critics are jaded and lame — you know, in my humble opinion) was the characters themselves.  I found myself sinking into this film and truly caring about the characters involved and what was happening to them.  They seemed authentic to me and I wanted to know how things were going to turn out for them.  For once, I found myself actually rooting for the humans instead of the monster — dudes, you have no idea how rare that is for me!

The movie opens with some home-movie footage of two characters — Rob and Beth — happily post-coital and making plans for a fantastic day spent together at Coney Island.  Suddenly, that footage is interrupted by a new recording: a going-away party for Rob hosted by a bunch of his friends.  Turns out Rob is heading to Japan soon for a new job and Beth?  Well, Beth wasn’t actually his girlfriend, as in love as they may have seemed in that opening shot.  She was just his BEST friend, and a month ago they slept together and things got awkward fast.  Now they aren’t speaking to each other, she’s brought some other guy to the party, and Rob’s brother has just started filming this going-away party footage right over the tape of that glorious day at Coney Island. 

Lordy.

The camera gets passed to a guy named Hud, who turns out to be this movie’s comic relief, god bless ‘im.  Hud begins to film everybody’s comments and well-wishes for Rob but quickly gets bored and decides to try to capture Rob and Beth fighting in the hallway instead.   Juicy!  Just as he’s being shooed away, though, the entire party is disrupted by a loud WHOMP and the shaking of the entire building.

And we’re off! 

To tell you anything more about what happens in this movie would be to ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself, so I won’t say much more about the plot.  But one of the things I loved about this film immediately was the fact J. J. Abrams (a genius!) clearly knows and respects Meg’s First Rule of Effective Monster Movie Making.  And that rule is: DO NOT SHOW ME THE MONSTER* (*unless the monster is really, really cool, which it probably isn’t, so err on the side of caution, wouldja?). 

Would that more monster movie makers knew this rule, because nothing ruins a scary movie mood faster than the early showing of a truly lame monster, and 99% of movie monsters are, in fact, TRULY LAME.

In this one, though, when we can see anything of the creature, it’s usually only a fast-moving blur in the background, or a strange-looking and enormous leg plonking down off to the side.  We finally do get a close-up shot of the monster’s head at the end of the film — which was unfortunate because “truly lame” turned out to be fairly accurate (I subtract 50 points from any movie in which the monster is not from the surface of the planet Earth and yet is a biped with four limbs and a small head, by the way).  But it takes nearly the ENTIRE MOVIE for us to even begin to have a clue of what humankind is up against.  And that, in my opinion, is TRULY COOL.

I also confess I was initially a bit worried I’d find the hand-held video camera stuff too hokey.  It’s been done to death since Blair Witch Project(another fantastic movie that really, REALLY got behind Meg’s First Rule of Effective Monster Movie Making, by the way), and it’s done badly most of the time, in my experience.  But this movie just really did it RIGHT.  It was exactly the kind of footage I’d expect to see from an inexperienced dude named Hud with a video camera, flailing around in a bit of a fluctuating state of shock. 

I can’t help but keep coming back to the word “authentic” every time I think about this movie, actually, and that’s in no small part thanks to a series of little moments here and there that were simply spot-on.  One came early on in the film, after the initial whomping drove everybody out into the street.  Nobody has any idea what’s going on when suddenly the head of the Statue of Liberty comes flying through the air and lands with a thud right in front of them.  But instead of fleeing in terror, half the people on the street immediately pull out their cell phones and start snapping photos.  I loved that!  So true! 

And in terms of the camerawork, there were a lot of great little touches there that anybody who has ever used a hand-held video camera has experienced for themselves — like the auto-focus struggling to find something to focus ON, or issues with lighting, etc.  It really looked like a home movie. 

“Authentic,” y’all!

At the risk of sounding like a total dork, I just have to tell you I was literally THRILLED by this film.   It was intelligently made and thoroughly engaging — refreshing!  Only time will tell if I find it as fun the second (or third, or fourth) time I see it.  I’ve seen Blair Witchat least 50 times now, for example, and I still love to watch it — I can only hope this movie will hold up as well.  But you never know.  Maybe it was effective the first time because I didn’t know what to expect.  Maybe it was effective because I was distracted by the film-making style and didn’t pay enough attention to the dialogue or the characters or the action itself.  Maybe I’m just dumb.  But on first viewing, I can definitely say this was one of the most entertaining horror/monster movies I’ve seen so far this year.

Highly recommended!  And I’d be curious to hear what you guys thought of it, so hit the comments, yo!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Odet Jasmin

BOOK: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

May 27, 2008

First things first: LOVED IT! And huge thanks to reader (and friend!) Kathleen who recommended this book to me not once but twice (at least!)! Yay, Kathleen! Sorry it took me for-freakin’-ever to actually get around to reading it, by the way. I am dumb.

This utterly delightful young adult novel is set in a small Arizona high school and focuses on a teenaged boy named Leo Borlock. Life for Leo is pretty good — he and his best friend Kevin are pretty popular in school, in part because of a highly successful cable access show they started called “The Hot Seat,” in which they interview their fellow students and any question goes. But things are about to get a lot more interesting for both Leo and his entire school — a new girl, previously home schooled, has just joined their class and she’s. . . well, she’s a bit of a weird one. She goes by the name “Stargirl,” and definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer. She plays the ukulele and sings to people at lunch. She gives people surprise gifts. She wears odd clothes and decorates her desk before every class. She shows up uninvited at events. She cheers for both sides during basketball games. The list goes on and on.

[finish reading the book review. . .]

Breakdancin’ and Bugs! Bring it!

May 20, 2008

Just wanted to give y’all a quick heads-up about two television events coming up in the next several days that I am QUITE excited about. 

The first is the premiere of the new season of So You Think You Can Dance, which starts this Thursday night on FOX at 8pm.  YAHOO!  I am so ready!  If you need a refresher course, be sure to go back and reread my Boyfriend write-up on the show.  And even if you DON’T need a refresher course, go back and reread it anyway — all the cool kids are doin’ it.

Then, as if THAT weren’t awesome enough, next Monday night brings us, at long last!, A&E’s miniseries of The Andromeda Strain, which I’ve been seeing ads about for weeks now.   First the ads were all cryptic ones that said only “What Happened in Piedmont” and led you to this fake blog, which was kind of fun.  And then came the ads that REALLY made my eyes go wide — the ones that showed us the extremely good-looking cast.  Rick ShroederBenjamin Bratt!  Daniel Dae Kim!  Eric McCormack!  Andre Braugher! DEADLY VIRUSES AND CUTE BOYS — SIGN ME UP, YO!

As many of you found out last year, I looooove to gossip about SYTYCD, so feel free to email me or post comments on the blog after each and every episode.  I will ALWAYS play along.  Blog comments need not be related to the actual blog post on which they are made, something I think I’ve demonstrated my flexibility on after the recent spate of movie quote wars in the last several posts.  Dang, that was fun, by the way!  How we got onto Star Trek on that book review, I still have no idea, though.  I blame Trip, god bless ‘im.

MOVIE: One Missed Call (2007)

May 19, 2008

Okay, this is going to astonish and amaze you. And also, probably disgust and infuriate you as well. Because guess what! While I completely, utterly, 100% recognize that this movie is a VERY BAD MOVIE, I also confess I kind of enjoyed it! I know! What the heck is going on?! That makes two enjoyably-crappy movies in two weeks for me — some kinda record?

Yes, let me say it again: this is a VERY BAD MOVIE. It’s not only stupid to the extreme, but the plot makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. In fact, it doesn’t even TRY to make sense, which, to be honest, scored it a few points with me, because if you’re making a bad movie that makes no sense, you’re only going to irritate me if you try to force it to make sense, despite the fact it’s so, so obvious it makes no sense at all.  (Did that sentence make any sense??)  There’s really nothing more obnoxious than movies that think they make sense, but don’t.

Also, I’ll just get this out of the way right now — this movie is a total rip-off of The Ring. But you know what? (You’re going to be disgusted by this one too, heads up.)  I actually liked it BETTER than The Ring. Know why? Two reasons.

One: No Naomi Watts (no sir, I don’t like her.  I know everybody else thinks she’s amazing but I’m sorry, she bores the crap out of me.  Don’t take it personally.).

Two: Ed Burns, who is extremely cute.

Oh, wait!  Three reasons!  And Three: Did not attempt to make sense!  Bravo!

This movie, another in an lengthening line of American remakes of Japanese horror flicks, is about a college student, Beth (played by Moonlight‘s Shannyn Sossamon), who has recently lost several friends in bizarre accidents. When another friend turns up dead, Beth decides enough is enough and goes to the police. Answering her call is a detective, Jack Andrews (aforementioned adorable Ed Burns), but at first, he mostly just thinks she’s nuts. The more the two of them look into the deaths, however, the more commonalities they begin to uncover. For one, every victim was found with same hard candy in their mouth (see above re: “stupid to the extreme”). And for two, they all had cell phones and all had received creepy calls from THEMSELVES a few days before they died.

Of course, once Beth and Jack realize what’s going on — that getting the creepy call and answering it means you will die soon — they tuck their phones back in their pockets and begin working to figure out who the first victim was and what the trigger for all this mayhem might’ve been. 

Great plan, though I might’ve prefaced it with a quick call to Verizon to cancel my cell service first.  Or, say, a trip to the nearest bridge, where I would’ve simply heaved my phone into the drink.  I mean, call me crazy, but if I knew receiving a call could kill me, I would not continue to carry a phone in my pocket!

This is why they never cast ME in horror movies, incidentally.  TOO SMART.

Anyway, sure enough, it’s not long before Beth herself hears the dreaded ghostly Ring Tone O’ Death.  Now the Dynamic Duo must frantically battle the clock, eventually working their way back to a woman named Marie Layton, who they suspect was abusing her two daughters, Ellie and Laurel. Beth thinks Marie is the one making the deadly calls, but after tracking her, Ellie, and Laurel down (some of them dead, some not), she and Jack come across a piece of evidence that finally explains it all.

By which I actually mean it explains absolutely nothing. Awesome!

Anyway, long review short (too late!), there were so many problems with this movie’s storyline they’re not even worth pointing out. It’s a bad, bad movie. BAD, my peoples!  And also, for the record, while I like her a lot, Sossamon is WAY too old to play a 20 year old college student. It was ridiculous to cast her in this role — she’s thirty, and she LOOKS THIRTY. Get over it!

That said, I love hanging out with Ed Burns and Ray Wise (both of whom I’m planning on making Boyfriends of the Week soon, by the way), and I enjoyed the overall MOOD of this film. The way it looked, the pacing, the atmosphere. It just kinda worked for me. And really, it’s not like The Ring made any sense either, and all you weirdos seemed to LOVE that one (I still don’t get that, by the way — I thought that movie stunk to high heaven, especially after seeing the original, Ringu, which still had a stupid storyline but was at least effectively creepy. Honestly, what is the deal with the way we consistently ruin Asian horror movies in this country? It’s like we go, “Hey, that Japanese horror movie was SO SCARY! Let’s remove every single element that was actually spooky and remake it into something totally awful and boring for the U.S. market!”  Great idea!)

In any case, I’m not sure I can go so far as to recommend this movie — did I mention it was extremely stupid and bad and made no sense whatsoever? But at the same time, if you typically like the same movies I like, you might find this one watchable. At the very least, it’s probably worth Netflixing at some point. Let me know what you think if you see it!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Shannyn Sossamon, Ed Burns, Ray Wise, Ana Claudia Talancon, Jason Beghe

BOOK: Life Support by Tess Gerritsen

May 15, 2008

After two Cormac McCarthy novels in a row (pretty much all the reading I’ve done in the last six weeks — whew), I figured it was time for something mindless and fun. Gerritsen to the rescue! This medical thriller opens with a somewhat frazzled night-shift ER doc, Toby Harper, startled by her latest patient’s behavior. He’s an elderly man, found wandering the streets buck naked and mumbling incoherently. He’s clearly disoriented and confused, and exhibiting signs of seizure as well. Unsure what’s wrong with him, Dr. Harper admits him and then returns to her office to shuffle some paperwork and wait for the CT machine to be free. But it’s not long before she goes to check on her patient and finds him. . . GONE!

[finish reading the book review. . .]

CURSES! Die, Network Executives, Die!

May 14, 2008

Man, in terms of TV news, this week is really starting to bum me out!  First, I learned yesterday that both Men in Trees (WHAAA!) and Women’s Murder Club have not been renewed for next year (but Sarah Connor Chronicles was?  Really!?).  And today, Moonlight has officially gotten the boot. 

First of all, let me state for the record that I will never forgive ABC for what it did to Men in Trees, which was a well-written, clever, and thoughtful show that didn’t deserve being shafted the way the network seemed to so enjoy shafting it.  Also, it starred one of the hunkiest men to grace primetime television since MACGYVER, people.  And is that worth SO LITTLE in this day and age?  I argue not!

ABC network executives, you are either total buttheads or complete idiots.  You may pick one or the other.  Or both.  In fact, both works for me quite nicely.  As Donald “Duck” Dunn in The Blues Brothers so aptly put it, “If the shit fits. . .”

Also, yes, I know Women’s Murder Club was kind of bad.  Okay, it was kind of pretty really bad.  But you know what?  It wasn’t UNWATCHABLY bad.  It was better than half the crap you know ABC is going to put out next season.  I was enjoying it!  Way more than I have ever enjoyed, say, Private Practice.  WHICH GOT RENEWED!

Is there no justice in this world?!

And as for Moonlight, bah.  Yes, that’s right, I say BAH to you, CBS!  But instead of complaining, I’m just going to go reread my write-up on Alex O’Loughlin and alternate cursing like Tony Soprano with crying silently into my lunch.

Bugger all.  Today sux.

MOVIE: Tooth and Nail (2007)

May 12, 2008

This movie is one of the annual “8 Films to Die For” series put together by After Dark Horrorfest.  The films are typically released into theaters for a very brief period of time (a weekend, I think), and then head straight to DVD.  I couldn’t swear to it, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever actually watched one of the movies from this series. I’ve seen them around, but to be honest, they always looked so awful I was kind of afraid to give them a try (oh stop — I know YOU think I have no standards, but the reality is I have very specific and exacting standards, they just happen to be much, much lower than yours!).

A couple of weeks ago, however, Dish Network was offering two of the movies from the latest incarnation of this series on Pay-Per-View for one low, low price.  I couldn’t resist a deal like that, so I recorded them both and only just got around to watching the first one this weekend.  And to be honest, though my expectations were extremely low, I have to say this movie was surprisingly not-that-bad!  I mean, it’s pretty bad, of course, but it was also fairly entertaining and had a few truly clever little moments scattered around here and there.  Color me astonished!

The story is set a few years in the future, after humans have depleted all stores and fixins for gasoline on the planet. Without gas, the world has completely fallen apart, and many people have either starved to death or died in violent attacks brought on by other people who are starving to death. So much for Thomas Hobbes being all glass-half-empty when it came to the human race, eh? 

A small group of survivors has holed up together in an abandoned hospital, where they’ve found a ton of food and supplies. One day, a couple of them are out scrounging when they come across a young woman who’s been injured. They take her back to the hospital and are horrified when she describes being attacked by a gang of people she calls “Rovers” — murderous human beings clad mostly in fur (that’s how we know they’re evil, naturally!) and wielding all kinds of Dungeons & Dragons-style weaponry, who kill anybody they encounter and then roast and eat their corpses.  Nom nom nom!  Yumsville!

Somewhat ridiculously, the good guys are all named after cars (Nova, Ford, Durango) and the bad guys are all named after carnivores (Lobo, Jackal, Dingo). Try not to hold this fact against the movie, though — it’s hard, I know, because that’s reallllllly stupid (and also the total opposite of my instincts when it comes to delineating good vs. evil in the modern world, I might add — I’m much more likely to want to root for the carnivorous wildlife than the SUVs, in other words).  But if you can get past the little moments of ridiculousness like these, the rest of the movie isn’t really as bad as it might sound.

Anyway, the Rovers, alas, have followed the young woman to the hospital, and that night, they begin their attack on the little group of survivors. Luckily, they only seem to attack at night, which leaves plenty of daytime for hand-wringing, panicked in-fighting, and scouting around for good hiding places.

The other good news is that it turns out the Rovers are also REALLY stupid. This is always helpful.

Unfortunately, the Cars quickly discover smarts are really no match for the swords when fighting with limited resources in a confined space (“Never fight a land war in Asia!”), and it’s not long before it becomes clear there’s no way they can really compete with the Carnivores.  By the final act of the film, only two Cars are left, though, luckily, they also just so happen to be the smartest characters in the whole movie and, coincidentally, the only two I was rooting for myself.  Oh, frabjous day!

The denouement of this movie was surprisingly clever, if you ask me, and while there were still some elements of it that made me roll my eyes, overall I was impressed with the method used to put the last of the Carnivores out of all of our miseries.  Not sure it would really work, but it was a cool concept that made it a lot easier to forgive some of the extremely silly lines in this movie, such as, “I don’t want to get chopped up by some two-bit ass clowns!” or, “Survival of the fittest: say hello to the winning team, bitch!” 

Actually, that last one’s not too bad, come to think of it. . .

And did I mention that Michael Madsen is in this? Michael Madsen, the Boyfriend whose write-up I still cite as one of my all-time favorites? THAT Michael Madsen!  Is in this movie! I wasn’t sure if I should be glad or disheartened by that fact at first, to be honest (dude, where did your career go, my man?).  Instead, I mostly just ended up being disappointed because clearly the filmmakers didn’t have enough money to pay his salary for more than an afternoon and seriously, they should’ve at least tried putting on a bake sale to keep him in the flick longer.  I would’ve gladly dropped a twenty on some cupcakes for an extra five minutes of Madsen onscreen, myself, and I’m SURE I’m not alone on that score.  Mike is one of the scariest mutha-fathas I have ever seen, and all he has to do to make me pee my pants with fear is simply glare sternly in my direction — frankly, I gots chills already.  Just think of how useful that could be in a film of this nature!  But instead he’s insanely underutilized here and eventually just kind of vanishes without a trace (I never did figure out what happened to him — maybe he got killed and I somehow missed it?).  Missed a bet on that one, fellas.

That said, the other actors do a decent job here themselves, and many of them were also recognizable faces as well (Rachel Miner is from Californication, Rider Strong is from Boy Meets World and Eli Roth’s movie Cabin Fever, Michael Kelly was on the Sopranos, etc.).

All in all, this was a pretty entertaining little movie.  Yes, most of it is kind of stupid.  I recognize that, I truly do.  But if you watch a lot of bad horror movies like I do, you start to appreciate the ones that have a few unique ideas sprinkled into their mixes.  This one had just enough elements that were original to make the parts that were supremely silly mostly forgivable.  For what it is, it’s surprisingly decent.  That’s hardly glowing praise, I realize, but fans of bad horror flicks might find this one worth the price of a rental.  You could do a lot worse.  And if you’re me, you probably already have!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast:  Rider Strong, Rachel Miner, Michael Kelly, Robert Carradine, Michael Madsen

BOOK: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

May 11, 2008

I’m so behind on book reviews right now, not to mention everything else – sorry about that! But part of the problem with this one was that after I’d finished reading it, I needed to chew on it a while before I could really put any thoughts together. I both loved this novel and found it almost unbearable to read at times, and now that it’s over, I think it’s safe to say it’s one of the most graphically violent novels I’ve ever read. So graphic, in fact, that when I heard that “they” were planning on turning it into a film, partly because, I would assume, No Country for Old Men did so well, I literally cringed. Do I really want to spend two hours watching white guys scalp Native American babies and vice versa? I’m thinking not so much.

The thing is, despite the horrific violence in this novel (made doubly horrifying by the fact it’s based on real events, by the way), it’s so brilliantly written I found myself hoarding its pages. I wouldn’t read it unless I was in the perfect setting for reading, and since I do at least 50% of my reading on the bus or while I’m walking somewhere, that cut out a lot of book time. The next thing I knew, I’d been working on the same book for two weeks, which is pretty unusual for me!

[keep reading the book review. . .]

You Asked For It, You Got It!

May 4, 2008

This is me, 2008, in my prom dress, circa 1989 (I’m not as elderly as that makes me sound, though — I went to the senior prom as a freshman and then didn’t bother going back three years later).

Sorry it’s so wrinkled — there’s only so much I’m willing to do for you people, and ironing is NOT on the list. Apparently, neither is tanning. Or makeup. Or doing my hair. Or tidying up in the background of the shot.

By the way, if you’re wondering WHY I posted a photo of myself in my prom dress, please read my review and the subsequent comment strand for the movie Prom Night.  All will be explained.  And yes, I know this is hardy a stunning, high-class prom dress.  However, it doesn’t look ANYTHING like what my mother would’ve worn to church in the 80’s, so I still beat Jamie Lee Curtis by a mile.


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